World War II is a popular subject for students at Riverview Middle School, but there’s at least one wartime story they aren’t reading in their history books, yet.
A local mother spoke to students last week to tell the story of her mother, Ruby Rosenthal (Hibbler), one of just over 1,000 civilian pilots of the Woman’s Air Force Service Pilots. Each WASP freed a male pilot for combat service and duties during World War II.
The women served from 1942-1944 and flew every type of mission flown by male Army Air Force pilots except combat.
“They towed targets for live gunnery practice, ferried planes, transported personnel and cargo and trained male pilots,” said proud daughter Jan Butler. “They flew the B-26 and the B-29 Super Fortress to prove to male pilots they were safe to fly.”
While the WASPs lived in barracks stationed on 120 bases across the United States, they were considered civilians and did not receive military honors.
Still, Butler always considered her mother and the other WASPs as World War II heroes.
“As a child in school, anytime I’d be asked who my hero was, I’d always say my mother who was a WWII pilot, even if they didn’t always believe me,” Butler said.
Last month, over 60 years after the group, whose records were sealed until the 1970s, was disbanded, the WASP were declared true World War II heroes when each member was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor in Washington.
“When the WASP received the Congressional Gold Medal, I was thrilled, that at last, the story of these women, their service to our country in a time of need, and the values they epitomize ... would begin to be recorded in textbooks,” Butler said. “And their priceless history would be able to motivate and inspire generations to come.”